I wrote Filtered Light on a commission from Emlyn Johnson, who spearheaded the Music in the American Wild project. Music in the American Wild (http://www.musicintheamericanwild.com/) set out to celebrate the centenary of the National Parks Service by commissioning several composers to write for flute, clarinet, horn, percussion, violin, viola, and cello and then perform these commissioned works outdoors in national parks around the U.S.
When beginning the process of writing this piece, I set the intention of meditating on nature and then allowing these meditations to inform my writing, perhaps in subconscious ways that I might not understand (my music is generally not programmatic in a literal way). As a resident of NYC at the time of writing the piece, I reflected on how nature intersects with the city. Parks in NYC are for me incredibly important. I chose to live on the Upper West Side in part because I love knowing that Riverside Park and Central Park flank the few avenues that exist in between them. I imagine these parks as providing much needed oxygen to city dwellers, and they connect us to the softer parts of our humanity within the harder concrete edges that greet us as sidewalks, skyscrapers and zooming traffic. Sometimes, standing in Central Park, I look out at the city and am astounded at how (manmade) nature gives way over one sharp line to streets and high-rises.
While the piece is not programmatic, I am conscious of how a few images appear in the music. The opening texture is like sunlight dancing on a million small leaves that are rustling in a slight breeze. The more aggressive, rhythmic music is a tribal, urban dance. The stacked-fifth harmonies that appear at times are a small nod to Americana (think Copland and fifths meaning nature in some way). I’m grateful to Emlyn for the enormous musical and organizational effort she put into this project.